Microsoft is testing Outlook.com changes, including revised icons and 'Outlook Mail' branding

Back in October, Microsoft began testing a new header layout on Outlook.com and other related sites, focusing on improvements to the drop-down menu that allows users to easily switch between some of the company's most popular services, including OneDrive and Office Online apps.

Since then, the company has rolled out new products, and started to revise elements of its design language as part of its Windows 10 development process.

The 'new' version currently in limited testing...

We've recently received a couple of tips from Outlook.com users who had spotted minor changes on the site - including color tweaks and the disappearance of the 'Office Online' tile from the drop-down navigation menu. But we've now received a screenshot from one of our readers, shown above, which gives us our first clear look at some of the changes that Microsoft has been testing.

There are several changes worth noting here:

  • The most obvious is the use of 'Outlook Mail' branding, rather than 'Outlook.com', as it's currently known. This seems to be a logical progression, given the recent launch of the company's Outlook Mail and Outlook Calendar apps as part of its latest Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones, build 10051. Note also the 'beta' tag below the main logo.
  • The static Outlook.com tile currently in use has been replaced in this beta by a new double-width version that functions as a working Live Tile, with relevant notifications showing new arrivals into your inbox.
  • The current static Calendar tile has also been updated with a version that shows the correct date, rather than just an icon.
  • The People and Calendar tiles are now blue (rather than the current orange and purple, respectively), matching the Outlook brand.
  • There are new icons for both the People and OneDrive tiles. Eschewing the 'solid' icons that these sites currently use, the updated versions more closely align with the new 'outline' icon style seen in Windows 10 (many examples can be found in the Settings menu both on PC and phone).
  • The 'Online' suffix has been dropped from the Office tiles. And in line with what our tipsters revealed to us before this screenshot came through, the Office Online tile has been removed too.
  • ...and finally, Sway has been added to the universal drop-down menu for the first time.

You can compare the image of the 'new' version above, with the one currently used across Microsoft sites, below:

...and the current version, first introduced in October 2014

We must point out, however, that not all of the details shown in the new screenshot line up precisely with the reports from other tipsters. For example, both the new wide tile for Mail, and the use of Outlook Mail branding, had not been mentioned previously, but other details line up perfectly, including the color change for the People and Calendar tiles.

It's entirely possible - indeed, it's very likely - that Microsoft is putting multiple versions of its amended drop-down menu through testing, with certain groups seeing particular variations, in order to determine the best solution.

Of course, 'best' is a very subjective term - and given the somewhat tepid response of many Windows Insiders to some of the design updates that Microsoft has made in its new OS, we imagine that some users won't be entirely pleased by some of these changes...!

As we exclusively revealed on Neowin last week, Microsoft has also been testing a new page layout on Outlook.com for composing and replying to emails. We don't yet know when the company plans to push these changes to all users, but we'll keep digging, so be sure to stick around.

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